OSU Rush Offense vs. ND Rush DefenseOhio State's running attack is led by running back 25 Antonio Pittman. On average, Pittman will run 20 times for 109 yards. He also has 6 touchdowns in 11 games this season. Dual-threat quarterback 10 Troy Smith is credited with 123 rushing attempts in 10 games this year. Smith has run 640 yards in the positive direction and 95 in the negative direction, for a net of 545 yards. That's just under 55 yards per game. Smith also has 11 touchdowns on the ground. OSU's third leading rusher is Pittman's backup - freshman 34 Maurice Wells. Wells is a small back, "Kanka on Creatine"-sized (5'10", 190 lbs.). If form holds true, he will run 7 or 8 times for 25 yards. Fullback 43 Brandon Schnittker averages 2 carries for 7 yards per game. Multi-purpose threat 7 Ted Ginn, Jr. has been held to 10 yards on 10 carries this season. Overall, the Buckeyes average 189.5 yards per game on the ground.
Notre Dame is giving up 119.4 yards per game on the ground. Senior linebackers 39 Brandon Hoyte and 46 Corey Mays lead the team in tackles with 82 and 68 respectively. Hoyte has 15.5 tackles in the backfield and Mays has 10.5. The players to watch here, however, may be the defensive ends. Will they be able to keep contain on Smith? A contain assignment requires patience and a great deal of discipline. The one end, 95 Victor Abiamiri, who leads ND linemen with 46 tackles and 15 TFL, is playing in his third collegiate season. The other end, however, will be relatively green. 99 Ronald Talley, who is said to be mostly healed from a mid-season injury, is playing in his first collegiate season. His backup, 90 first Brian Beidatsch, is a 5th year senior. The other backup, Justin Brown, is also playing his first year of college ball. Notre Dame has faced several "mobile" quarterbacks this season. The best running performance by an opposing quarterback was 48 yards by Drew Stanton
Now, let me introduce a new mini-segment: comparison of statistical rankings. Make of these numbers what you will. Ohio State is ranked 30th nationally in rushing offense. Purdue is ranked 31st, and they ran for 164 yards against Notre Dame. MSU, ranked 21st, ran for 161 yards against ND. Michigan, ranked 39th, ran for 114.
Notre Dame is ranked 26th in run defense. Iowa, ranked 27th, gave up 314 rushing yards to OSU. Texas, ranked 30th, gave up 111 yards.
ND Rush Offense vs. OSU Rush DefenseOn average, 3 Darius Walker, now back to 100% after a mysterious calf injury, runs 22 times per game for about 100 yards. He has scored six rushing touchdowns this season. Backup 26 Travis Thomas runs about 6 times for 23 yards per game. He has found the end zone 5 times. Quarterback 10 Brady Quinn, not counting sacks, has scrambled 44 times for 236 yards and one touchdown. Overall, Notre Dame averages 154.8 rushing yards per game.
Ohio State is yielding a measley 74.5 rushing yards per game. The Buckeye defense is led by a vaunted trio of linebackers. 47 AJ Hawk, 51 Anthony Schlegel, and 42 Bobby Carpenter have combined for 233 tackles on the year, including 30.5 tackles for a loss. It is now believed that Carpenter will play in this game. If he does not, freshman 33 James Laurinaitis will likely be his replacement. Laurinaitis has made 9 tackles on the year.
Notre Dame has the 48th best rushing game in the country. Illinois, ranked 45th, was held to 68 yards by the Buckeyes. 39th-ranked Michigan was held to 32 yards.
Ohio State has the #1 ranked rush defense. Tennessee, ranked #2, held Notre Dame to 48 yards on the ground.
OSU Pass Offense vs. ND Pass DefenseTroy Smith, now solidified as the starting quarterback, has been very accurate this season. His average game consists of completing 13 of 21 (62%) passes for 194 yards. On the season, he has 14 TDs to 4 interceptions. His primary target is 4 Santonio Holmes. Holmes averages 4-5 catches, 78 yards, and a touchdown per game. If he choses to forgo a fifth season, he is said to be one of the best wideouts in the upcoming draft. OSU's #2 receiver, Ted Ginn, averages 4 catches and 58 yards per game. He has caught 3 touchdowns. On third down, look out for slot receiver 11 Anthony Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a product of St. Ignatius in Cleveland, scares me the most in this game. Of course, what do I know? On average, Gonzalez makes 2-3 catches for 33 yards per game. Number four receiver 8 Roy Hall, HB Antonio Pittman, and TE 80 Ryan Hamby each average about one catch per game.
Notre Dame gives up 257.5 passing yards per game. Safety 9 Tom Zbikowski leads the team with 5 interceptions. He will have a interesting day, as Zbikowski has a tendency to bite on play action. Will he and fellow safety 18 Chinedum Ndukwe pay too much attention to the run, or just enough? ND's cornerbacks, 22 Ambrose Wooden and 30 Mike Richardson, are much improved this season. Wooden is third on the team with 67 tackles, while Richardson has added 3 interceptions and 3 sacks. An interesting matchup will be the one between Anthony Gonzales and nickelback 15 Leo Ferrine. Ferrine averages one bad play per game (no doubt a residual of that #15 jersey), but overall he has done well for a first year player. Notre Dame's pass rush is led by Victor Abiamiri with 8 sacks. Brandon Hoyte has 6 and Corey Mays has 4.
Ohio State ranks 68th in passing offense. Michigan, ranked 63rd, passed for 223 yards against the Irish. Pitt, ranked 62nd, threw for 220 yards against the Irish.
Notre Dame is ranked 97th in passing defense. Ohio State passed for 216 yards against Iowa's 94th ranked passing defense. Northwestern, ranked 106th, held OSU to 105 passing yards (although the 317 rushing yards may have had something to do with that).
ND Pass Offense vs. OSU Pass DefenseNotre Dame's passing offense is led by Heisman almost-finalist Brady Quinn. Quinn has thrown for 3633 yards and 32 touchdowns against 7 interceptions this season. His average day consists of completing 24 of 37 passes (65%) for 330 yards and 3 TDs. His primary targets are two 6'5 breakout stars. 83 Jeff Samardzija has caught 71 passes for 1190 yards and 15 touchdowns. 21 Maurice Stovall has caught 60 passes for 1023 yards and 11 touchdowns, including 10 TDs in the past 5 games. If you put them together, Samardzija and Stovall will catch 12 passes for 201 yards and 2-3 touchdowns on an average day. Tight end 88 Anthony Fasano has made 45 catches for 564 yards this season, with 2 touchdowns. Darius Walker is a reliable option out of the backfield, with 36 catches and 314 yards on the season. The third receiver, 82 Matt Shelton, has made 23 catches for 277 yards while not playing at 100%.
Ohio State is holding opponents to 200.8 passing yards per game. They have 6 team interceptions, led by SS 9 Donte Whitner with 2. Whitner is also third on the team with 64 tackles. 6'1 26 Ashton Youboty is the team's top cornerback. Playing opposite of him is 5'11 6 Tyler Everett. Free safety 21 Nate Salley is 6'3. If Notre Dame goes four or five wide, as is expected, look for nickelback 32 Brandon Mitchell to come in. Mitchell is listed as a safety but it said to hit like a linebacker. If I had to guess, I would expect Brady Quinn to pick on the 5'11 Everett. This may also be a big game for TE 89 John Carlson - assuming that there is only one good pass coverage guy between Mitchell, AJ Hawk, and Anthony Schlegel, and assuming that that person will be in Anthony Fasano's back pocket all game. Bobby Carpenter, who often moves to defensive end in nickel situations, leads the team with 8 sacks. Hawk has 7.5 and defensive end 57 Mike Kudla has 6.5.
Notre Dame has the fourth best passing game in the country. Northwestern, #10, was held to 153 passing yards by OSU. #12 Michigan State had 340 passing yards, while #14 Miami University threw for 250 yards.
Ohio State's passing defense is ranked 36th best in the Division IA. Brady Quinn threw for 286 yards against #22 Syracuse and 223 yards against #51 Michigan.
Special Teams23 Josh Huston has made 20 of 23 field goal attempts this season. He has made all 16 tries from under 40 yards and 50% of his tries from 40+. His long on the year is 47. 19 DJ Fitzpatrick is said to be back to full health for the Irish. He has made 11 of 17 field goals, 11 of 14 when he wasn't injured. His long is 48 yards and he has had one kick blocked.
15 AJ Trapasso punts for the Buckeyes. He averages 40.4 yards per punt with a long of 76, 3 touchbacks, 13 fair catches, and 18 punts landing inside the 20. OSU averages 3-4 punts per game. Fitzpatrick is Notre Dame's punter. His average is 40.0 yards with a long of 60, 1 touchback, 2 punts fair caught, and 10 landing inside the 20. Notre Dame also averages 3-4 punts per game. For the Irish, 23 Chase Anastasio has blocked 3 punts.
Ohio State has shared kick return duties among its top 3 receivers, but the primary guy has been Ted Ginn. Ginn has averaged 29.6 yards on 18 returns, with a 100 yard touchdown. DJ Fitzpatrick averages 60.5 yards per kickoff, putting the ball around the 5. Notre Dame's kick coverage team gives up 21.4 yards per return, giving the opponent an average start around the 27. DJ has 8 touchbacks on 57 kicks.
11 David Grimes, who is also a running and receiving threat in five receiver sets, has handled most of ND's kick returns. He is averaging 22.5 yards per return with a long of 40. Josh Huston has put 49 of 70 kickoffs in the end zone this year. Overall, he is averaging 63.1 yards per kickoff and OSU is giving up 20.1 yards per kick return. That gives opponents an average start around the 22.
Ted Ginn is also OSU's primary punt returner. He has an average of 10 yards per return with a 62 yard touchdown. Notre Dame is giving up a stifling 6.2 yards per punt return.
Tom Zbikowski is Notre Dame's punt returner. He has an average of 14.6 yards per return. He has two punt return touchdowns on the year, including a long of 78 yards. Ohio State is holding opponents to an impressively low 5.7 yards per return.
Look for a big game from Charlie Weis, Quinn, Fasano, Stovall, the Offensive Line, Derek Landri, Abiamiri, and Mays.
ND 34, OSU 27: Thomas and Quinn on the ground, Stovall and Samardzija in the air, and two by DJ.
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